Trends aren't always a bad thing. Of course, we aren't talking about overly precious mini-cupcake-on-a-stick trends. But the kind where we all benefit, like one that has chilaquiles popping up on brunch menus through out the city. Jar in West Hollywood, Local in Silver Lake and The Restaurant at the Getty Center, which makes an excellent duck confit version. Another positive effect of this chilaquile showboating is that their Tex-Mex cousin, migas, are also starting to appear on more menus. So lately we have been spent our breakfasts getting to know this Tex-Mex classic.
Because it needs to be said, migas are not chilaquiles. In separate entries in his The Tex-Mex Cookbook, chronicler of Tex-Mex cuisine, Rob Walsh delineates the difference between the two: chilaquiles are tortillas, crisped and cooked in salsa. Migas are tortillas, crisped and cooked with eggs. Egg can be added to chilaquiles. And salsa can be added to migas after the egg is set. Just don't try to pass one for the other to a homesick Texan. You have been warned.
We decided to set our migas point of comparison by first visiting Nick's Taste of Texas in Covina. One of the few fully Tex-Mex restaurants in L.A. County, Nick's serves their Mr. "G" migas on Sundays. With their red checker clad picnic tables and roadhouse atmosphere, we were not surprised to find their version of migas looks like something that would be cooked over a campfire in a cast iron skillet, which is actually the cooking implement of choice at Nick's.
Like many things of questionable appearance, Nick's migas were quite soulful. Tortillas are roughly torn and crisped in the searing skillet before the eggs are cracked in and quickly scrambled while a handful of thickly sliced serrano chiles char to the point of nearly melting. The weightiness of the egg and tortilla mixture is remedied by the pops of heat from the serrano and the brightness of their salsa fresca. The flavors are familiar, but build in a new way that made us finally appreciate the relief that comes from the strange sweetness of a can of Big Red.
Many breakfast items are comfort foods and migas are no exception. At Homegirl Café they call their version of migas, "M'jas." This is a rather apt name change as it is a term of endearment uttered to young women in times of understanding "M'ja, it'll be alright," and encouragement, "M'ja, you can do it!" These are two tenets that are at the core of Homegirl Café's mission of giving at risk youth a pathway out of gang life. Further, in keeping another one of their goals, to prepare innovative "Latina fare", there are three versions of m'jas on their Saturday brunch menu.
At first, we were drawn to the version with "Salmon y Papas", salmon and potatoes. We felt secure in our decision when a plate arrived of impeccably integrated scrambled eggs, tortilla chips, vegetables and pieces of expertly poached salmon. Yet, although it was absolutely delicious, it felt more like spa food than comfort food. A few visits later we tried the version with green turkey chorizo and hit the consummate comfort food payoff. The chorizo was finely ground and was nestled in each bite so that it burst with the flavor of herbal cilantro and tomatillo tanginess that it was soaked in.
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After trying the migas above, a scant tortilla version at Blu Jam Café and the black bean crowned rendition at Mas Malo, we had one final place to try and we headed to Lazy Ox Canteen's weekend brunch. We saved this version for last because knowing what chef Josef Centeno has done to the taco and rice pudding, at this point, we were looking forward to a new take on migas. However, when it arrived to the table, it turned out to have the appearance of classically prepared migas.
We shouldn't have been too surprised, because Centeno hails from San Antonio, Texas, -- and, as previously mentioned, you don't mess with migas. His version is an exemplary specimen. The chorizo infuses the custardy egg, which is studded with chopped up pieces of crisp tortilla. Each element of the migas is balanced and rests atop an acidic baby green salad, which serves as counterpoint to the porky funk that is the hallmark of a true Mexican chorizo. As with most of Lazy Ox Canteen's dishes, the migas are meant to be shared. But based on our experience, we see a new trend on the horizon, the one where we all order our own plate.